Date: Friday 2 August 2040ce 0930z
Location: Howie’s Salvage, Unicoi, Tennessee (-500)
The stars told her the time.
Andromeda at apex… Pollux newly risen… Triple-stars of Theta Serpentis approaching the horizon…
Sammie knew them all.
What she was unfamiliar with was the carpet of fresh green sod upon which she lay.
Howie’s land had been in a middle of a major swath of Deadland, the original bunkers just barely poking out from the ashen grey left behind by slither masses a quarter century earlier. At that time, the bunkers were a communication and resource line for regional Resistance militias; Scavengers brought the scrap and debris of a fallen Earth, while scouts brought information and messages.
After the war front was pushed south into the Gulf Coast states, foundations and metal-framed warehouses were built above ground. That’s when Howie made his fortune, supplying not only badly needed recyclable materials, particularly metals, within a market economy, but also restored vintage items, including engines, cars and game consoles.
Now, only the warehouses themselves matched Sammie’s earliest memories of the salvage yard.
For miles around, dark black dirt had been shipped in, dozens of trucks every day for weeks, while laborers in the Federal Land Reclamation Project followed behind planting the young saplings which were hoped to be the rebirth of Cherokee National Forest. That forest, however, was to be dotted with a few noted locations of historical interest.
Hunter, once a Resistance stronghold, was now considered a museum; Nature would be allowed to reclaim it, but the land itself would not be restored, nor the buildings (already long ago stripped of recyclable materials) torn down.
Howie, on the other hand, was allowed to keep his land, provided that he restore fertility and plant, at the very least, grass.
So very strange…
She did find some comfort in the plant, though found the tendency for getting poked by blade tips kinda annoying.
Papa and Howie both insisted she’d get used to it; They, after all, had done so during their own childhood.
Truth be told, she mostly liked the earthen smell that filled her nostrils.
Sammie found it upsetting that her Papa wasn’t there; All the times he had talked about grass and fields and lawns, yet he was away when the sod arrived from New Canada.
For now, she lay upon the strange plant debating its various comforts and discomforts.
Soon, she knew, Terra’s rotation would bring the eastern-most horizon into contact with the sun’s fury. Light would refract, heat would exchange, and magnetic bands would ignite.
The Dawn Chorus.
A symphony that played between the chirps and whistles of night and the dry sizzling white noise of day.
Sunset, to Sammie, was not nearly as pretty, the buzz growing cacophonous and then fading into night. The math to either, she had found, were equally as elegant as nature should be, so it made little sense that one should sound so chaotic and angry.
Nor did it make sense to her that the sound of a long-range diesel engine rumbling some distance away.
She focused on it, noting its distance and general location.
The access road… Approaching the entrance… And..?
The engine reduced its rpms dramatically and then raised them again; The pitch had changed dramatically.
It’s coming here!
She lay still, listening to the vehicle’s approach along the gravel drive that led from the road to the center lot of Howie’s Salvage.
It can’t be Papa…
He had told her he’d be back on Tuesday.
Unless something went wrong.
That was the crux of the matter; While neither this nor any other safe house had ever been compromised, there was always the possibility that it could happen.
It didn’t help, either, that this particular safe house was also located closest to where the Foe lived.
And Papa did say that things would be starting up really soon.
The vehicle pulled into the yard’s parking area, recently reduced to accommodate the thirty to forty curious lookers and serious antique hunters who would arrive over the course of a weekend, and came to a stop.
The moment of truth.
The door swung open and a foot pressed into the loose gravel.
No, it can’t be!
Boots moved on gravel and the door swung close.
The boots started walking, approaching towards where Sammie lay.
Sammie didn’t move; She didn’t want to and felt no need to do so out of courtesy.
Let’s see… Boots, not vintage but have the right look. Denim jeans and jacket, loose fitting t-shirt, and freshly dyed Mohawk.
Sammie opened her left eye as the footsteps came beside her and stopped.
The Mohawk was purple.
The two locked eyes.
God, how I hate you.
Everything about the (exceedingly) young woman above her, Sammie believed, was fake.
Even your name is a lie.
“Sammie,” the girl said in a husky voice.
Typically, Sammie actually enjoyed the Retro Kid trend, but found Cynthia’s own efforts to be rather disturbing.
“Is Pops around?” Cynthia asked.
You can’t have him!
“Nope,” was Sammie’s only reply.
And stop calling him that!
Sammie’s assessment was simple: Cynthia had adopted an 80s punk look while simultaneously projecting some kind of daddy’s girl
Cynthia’s blatant efforts to attract Sammie’s father, including the adoption of an 80s punk look like some urban Retro Kid from a northern state while attempting to project some kind of Daddy’s Girl fetish, was enough reason for Sammie to truly despise her all by itself.
As it was, she had far more reasons than that alone.
“Any idea when he’ll be back?”
Sammie didn’t want to answer; She was certain Cynthia still held a dual allegiance in her heart that, if put to the test, could make a traitor out of her.
But Papa says you’re on the team.
“Tuesday,” Sammie replied.
She still wasn’t certain Papa wasn’t thinking with his penis.
He still does that time to time.
She chided herself over the thought; If he hadn’t thought with his penis fifteen years ago, she never would have been born.
“Any idea where he’s at?”
Cyn looked most surprised.
“The fuck’s in Georgia?”
Damn good question.
Sammie didn’t know either, which bothered her immensely.
“Don’t know,” Sammie grudgingly admitted.
“Does Howie know?”
If I don’t know…
“You’ll have to ask him.”
…why would he?
“Is he up?”
“Playing with his toys.”
“So what are you doing?”
“Listening to the sunrise.”
Cynthia looked down at her with a blank expression; Sammie went back to looking up at the stars.